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THEOSOPHY WORLD --------------------------------- September, 2003
An Internet Magazine Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy
And its Practical Application in the Modern World
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(Please note that the materials presented in THEOSOPHY WORLD are
the intellectual property of their respective authors and may not
be reposted or otherwise republished without prior permission.)
"The Power of the Mystic," by B.P. Wadia
"Portraits of Theosophists," Part VII, by John M. Prentice
"What is Death," by Anonymous
"The Ninth Annual Theosophical Conference," by Wesley Amerman
"Death," by Mabel Collins
"Ancient Intuitions," by George William Russell
"The Child's Idea of Death," by George Godwin
"Apollonius of Tyanna, Part XIII, by Phillip A Malpas
"The Will of the White Knight," by James Sterling
"Thinking Versus Reading," by Jasper Niemand
"To Whom This May Come," Part I, by Edward Bellamy
> "That which is part of our souls is eternal," says Thackeray;
> and what can be nearer to our souls than that which happens at
> the dawns of our lives? Those lives are countless, but the soul
> or spirit that animates us throughout these myriads of
> existences is the same; and though "the book and volume" of the
> PHYSICAL brain may forget events within the scope of one
> terrestrial life, the bulk of collective recollections can never
> desert the divine soul within us. Its whispers may be too soft,
> tho sound of its words too far off the plane perceived by our
> physical senses; yet the shadow of events THAT WERE, just as
> much as the shadow of the events THAT ARE TO COME, is within its
> perceptive powers, and is ever present before its mind's eye.
> -- H.P. Blavatsky, THE SECRET DOCTRINE, II, page 424
THE POWER OF THE MYSTIC
By B.P. Wadia
[From THUS HAVE I HEARD, pages 311-13.]
> Every one therefore must become divine, and of godlike beauty,
> before he can gaze upon a god, and the Beautiful itself.
> Having closed the corporeal eye we must stir up and assume a
> purer eye within, which all men possess, but which is alone used
> by a few.
Says the mystic Plotinus:
> Our machine-mad and technique-fraught civilization regards his
> wise recommendation as "impractical." The senses of the mystic
> function differently, under the influence of his mind, from those
> of other men, and he is able to hear the language of the Soul.
> His sensorium is not keener in perception, but is capable of a
> different kind of perception. His mind understands words
> differently, and to him words and names present a different order
> and a subtler rhythm; they have a different connotation. Not
> logic and reasoning but analogy and correspondence are the
> mystic's avenues to knowledge and perception.
Thus, to a mystic, Arjuna is not only the strong-armed warrior,
the mighty archer, and one of the Pandavas, but is also Nara, who
is Man, the Thinker. He is more than Man, for He is a
Spirit-Being; and less than Thinker because he is the embodied
soul (Dehi) also. Therefore the majestic and martial allegory of
the Gita, of which Arjuna and Krishna, Nara and Narayana, are the
two chief characters, is interpreted in different ways. The
mystic perceives the battlefield of Kurukshetra as the Field of
Dharma, and Arjuna as the Learner -- Man, the Warrior who learns
to dispel his personal perception and stands "collected once
more," "free from doubt and firm." The man of mundane, lower,
ordinary perception misjudges the Gita as teaching carnal
warfare; to the mystic it sings of the Greatest of All Wars,
which the Buddha waged against Mara and the Christ against Satan.
Arjuna "is facing the battle of Man, as he grieves there the
arrows are already falling." He fought and won. Is there no
significance in this message for modern Indians? Or are there no
more Kshatriyas left?
Or turn to the New Testament. To St. Paul, Ishmael and Isaac
are not only persons; they typify or symbolize bondage and
liberty -- the former Judaic, and the latter Christian. Ishmael
was the son of the bondswoman and was born after the flesh, and
Isaac of the freewoman was born by promise "which things are an
allegory." (Gal. 4)
The mystic is practical inasmuch as he endeavors to learn about
the universe by a process different from that of the scholar and
the savant. He acquires a different sense of values and when he
imparts his knowledge to his fellow men he educates their hearts;
the scholar and the savant educate only the mind. Mystics offer
a moral elevation to the learner whereby intellect itself is
purified and understanding becomes insight. This is valuable not
only to the individual learner but to the State also.
Our civilization and all national States recognize and honor the
scientist and the scholar, and, better still, recognize and honor
the poet and the artist; but they have not yet evolved to the
point where the mystic is honored as an educator and a reformer
of a very superior kind.
The real power which Gandhiji wielded was the mystic power. He
did not labor with the mind but with the heart, his own and that
of others. Millions of Indians adore him as the "Father of the
Nation." We should begin to see in him the Father of a New Order
of Being -- a Pioneer and not a Prophet, an Exemplar and not a
Preacher, a Preceptor by actions, each action an experiment with
Truth felt in the heart.
How many among us recognize this? Again, how many attempt to
follow on the Heart Path he walked?
The practical mystic is the need of the hour, especially in
India. To become one is a Herculean task, but not an impossible
one; but how to recognize the true mystic?
How apt is the poem of Tennyson, "The Mystic!" He writes of the
Wakeful Dreamer; and we have space only for the opening and the
> Angels have talked with him, and showed him thrones:
> Ye knew him not: he was not one of ye,
> Ye scorned him with an undiscerning scorn:
> Ye could not read the marvel in his eye,
> The still serene abstraction: he hath felt
> The vanities of after and before;
> Albeit, his spirit and his secret heart
> The stern experiences of converse lives,
> The linked woes of many a fiery change
> Had purified, and chastened and made free.
> How could ye know him? Ye were yet within
> The narrower circle; he had well-nigh reached
> The last, which with a region of white flame,
> Pure without heat, into a larger air
> Upburning, and an ether of black blue,
> Investeth and ingirds all other lives.
PORTRAITS OF THEOSOPHISTS, Part VII
By John M. Prentice
[This is a true sketch of a Theosophist written by the President
of the Australian Section of the Theosophical Society (Pasadena),
from THE THEOSOPHICAL FORUM, July 1945, pages 311-13.]
Through the changeful years, his face comes smiling and
changeless, forever happy and forever young. Never will those
who knew him forget, while memory lasts and the bars of sunset
He was somewhat unusual. In the period of the First World War,
he was a soldier newly arrived at Cairo. He had come from
overseas for further training. On introducing himself to another
Theosophist, his manner was diffident, almost shy. There was a
reserve about him that suggested depths never revealed to a
Soldiering had not come easily. His first period of camp life
was uncomfortable. Behind his reserve, one sensed an inflexible
spirit. He had enlisted because he felt an inner impulse urging
him to do so. He was a volunteer. No matter how hard the way
before him might be, one knew he would tread it to the end.
A sympathetic Arab in Heliopolis loaned a room for meetings,
making possible a weekly gathering of theosophical students. In
this friendly circle, he thawed, expressing himself freely. It
was evident he had used the time he had devoted to the study of
theosophical and philosophical books wisely. As did several
others, he found a spiritual home in Egypt. His inner senses
unfolded rapidly. He saw an ever-increasing Reality under
With his newfound friend, he visited the principal places around
Cairo. The great stone Pharaoh, recumbent under the palms that
stud the ruins of Memphis, seemed strangely familiar. The
flooding silver moonlight chased shadows over the face of the
Sphinx. Its mystical face watched and waited for the Dawn. He
stood spellbound and speechless, watching this, once again as it
had been since the dawn of history. He looked long at the
glowing disc of the sun as it set in splendor, far away beyond
the Pyramid of Cheops, sitting and sipping his Arabic coffee on a
balcony at the Rod-el-Farag, overlooking the Nile. It was all so
familiar and dear.
An opportunity arose for him to take up clerical work in the
city. Although he could have filled it with distinction as well
as have leisure for further excursions into the holy places of
the past, he put it by resolutely. It was not for him nor was it
that for which he had enlisted. When his training completed, he
went on to England, his birthplace, and from there to the
conflict ravaging France.
Fighting on the Somme River in the bitter winter of 1917, he
steadied the troops with his unfailing cheerfulness. His
lightness of heart, almost gaiety, saved many a crisis. His
hints on reincarnation, life after death, and kindred subjects
produced furious argument or protracted debate in which he more
than held his own. Perhaps some considered him eccentric. I
would disagree with them. While preserving his inner center of
reserve, he was still everybody's friend.
Aware of the approach of death, he prepared. Before going into
action for the last time, he wrote two long letters, arranging
for others to mail them if he did not return to collect them. In
one, he hinted that he had experienced a premonition that the end
of this incarnation was due and promised to renew the ties of
this life from beyond the grave.
They won the battle, conquering a few yards of ground at a
terrific cost. He was missing, with not a trace ever found. A
shell had found a target. That was all.
He disappeared into the Silence. The Biblically minded said of
him that, like the first prophet Enoch, "He was not, because God
took him." Like Elijah, he had risen to Heaven in a chariot of
fire. Abraham Lincoln left on record his belief that "to live in
the hearts of those we leave behind us is not to die." In this
sense, this beloved Theosophist survives for the length of his
His friends proudly mourned him. One friend, the recipient of
his last-written letter, had known him best. That friend gained
a last hint ere he passed onto the deeper life of the spirit.
Almost idly playing with an ouija board in the company of a man
whose cartoons are now probably the most famous in the world, the
moving stylus spelt out his name with one curious aberration. It
had spelled the second of his given names wrong, giving "Walter"
as "Walther." They ordered the communicating entity away. They
rejected the authenticity of the message unhesitatingly.
Afterwards, there was some talk of the unreliability of such
communications, the board went dead, and they abandoned further
Returning home years later after wandering the world, the
operator of the ouija board met another friend of the dead boy.
This woman was the addressee of the other of the last two
letters. She asked for details of his passing. She had known
him well, both in the English countryside where he was born and
overseas when he had entered the army.
In the course of these reminiscences, they recalled the incident
of the ouija board. Dismissing it as another example of psychic
fantasy, the narrator saw his listener turn pale and become
tense. It was a minute before she spoke. "I suppose he never
mentioned his family background," she said. "You did not know
that his father was a German. He never referred to it after the
war started, although he was in no way ashamed. You could not
possibly have guessed that when his birth was registered his
second name was spelled Walther!"
WHAT IS DEATH?
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT, January 1960, pages 101-103.]
At whatever period of history we look, we find that man has never
been without a friend. Even at the darkest moments of the
world's history or of our own individual lives help and comfort
can always be derived if we know where to look for them.
Of real help and comfort to us is the understanding of the
meaning of a circumstance and the way it should be faced. There
are few philosophers as helpful in this respect for the ordinary
man as Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Emperor of the second century,
and Epictetus, the slave philosopher. They are far better
teachers on how to live than many of the present writers and
If, indeed, we are a superior genus of animal, and to die is to
cease to be, then let us "eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow
we die." If we are immortal, divine beings in animal-human forms,
having a goal of perfection that must be reached by our own
efforts, then we can joyfully shoulder the burdens of life. Life
invests itself with a purpose, not a purpose limited to
"three-score years and ten," but a purpose that lasts from life
to life. There is no death, i.e., cessation, but immortal
What is death? Materialistic science says that when we die we are
no more; the substance of our bodies goes back to Nature.
Religions speak of Heaven and Hell and offer Eternal Bliss or
Eternal Hell. Occult Philosophy and the Great Teachers of all
ages have given a different teaching, infinitely more reasonable
Scientifically, that which exists can never cease to exist; that
which does not exist can never exist. Unfoldment takes place and
forms change, but Life itself goes on. If our consciousness
leaves the body at death, does it cease to be? It leaves the body
during sleep, but reenters when we wake. What happens to it at
death when it does not reenter the body? Are the Spiritualists
correct when they say that the consciousness lives, on in a finer
body? The ancient EGYPTIAN BOOK OF THE DEAD describes the
after-death states very graphically, though allegorically. Shall
we believe in it? Do we accept what Jesus said to the thief on
the cross: "Today shalt thou be with me in paradise?"
Let us go a little deeper and study more fully the ancient
teaching on the after-death states.
When a man dies, the immortal part of him leaves the body. As
that body has a magnetic counterpart called the astral body, it
dwells in that. Immediately, he is pronounced dead. He sees in
review his entire past life down to the smallest detail. He sees
it in a way he had not seen it during life, for the Divine Parent
itself descends at the moment of death and floods the personal
consciousness with light so that the whole field of the life just
lived is illuminated and the meaning of the experiences gone
But when this is done, consciousness withdraws entirely and falls
into a sleep which may last for a few hours, a few days, weeks,
months or years, depending on the grossness of the last life or
its "goodness." During this sleep, either dreamless or
nightmarish, another death or separation takes place. All the
memories that pertain to the higher side of life stay with the
consciousness, while all the gross, selfish desires, feelings,
and thoughts form an entity which remains in that astral form.
The consciousness of this entity is not what we would call
consciousness, but unconsciousness, and it drifts like a leaf in
the wind while it undergoes the process of disintegration. This
second corpse may last for a short while or for a very long
while, and if it is left alone the normal process of
decomposition will take place. If it be contacted by a medium or
attracted to a seance, the memories can be reawakened, as the
record on a gramophone can be brought to life by the gramophone
needle, the medium representing, in this analogy, the needle.
This reawakening of the memories of the past life is good neither
for the medium nor for the corpse, for its decomposition is
hindered. Therefore, necromancy has always been strongly
denounced by all sages.
The consciousness, however, has left the second corpse and,
clothed in its highest and purest memories, has risen to what is
called the heaven world or Devachan, the place of the Gods. Here
it relives the past life, but surrounded only by the memories of
the aspirations cherished, the good and loving deeds performed
during life, and hence it is in a state of complete bliss. The
consciousness, the real man, does not know he is alone, but is
surrounded by the images of all his loved ones and is in a state
of beatitude, out of touch with the earth and therefore not
knowing at all what is happening here. As love and thoughts are
not mere ephemera but forces, they affect the living, and at
night when the living sleep, their consciousness may touch the
consciousness of the departed.
The ancient teaching is adamant on the point that the living
cannot communicate with the dead as the latter are in a state of
subjective consciousness and cannot be awakened to any objective
awareness until the next rebirth. Does this sound heartless? Why
should it? We leave one another in sleep every night. Death is
only a longer sleep. The living benefit from love poured out by
departed friends, refreshing themselves by ascent to their high
plane during sleep. What does it matter whether we can or cannot
carry on conversations with those who have passed onto the higher
spheres? Our selfishness seems to demand it. There is much more
comfort in the thought that no one can wake them until they
themselves awake after they have assimilated the experiences of
the past life. The period required for this process is given on
an average as 1,500 years, though it may be much shorter or much
longer, depending on that which has to be assimilated.
The question is sometimes asked if consciousnesses on that high
plane communicate with one another. The ancient teaching again
is adamant: they do not. Magnetically separated from all other
entities on that plane, they are left undisturbed until their
dream condition is over.
As this dream condition is of each man's own making, those who
have believed in the Christian heaven will find themselves in
their thought in the typical heaven of pearly gates and harps of
gold. The Mohammedan will find himself in the kind of heaven his
religion has taught him to expect. The consciousness of those
who have been materialists, who have not aspired towards the
spiritual world, will be a blank. Man is truly thought-formed.
He builds his own environment, both on earth and in the
Suicides and those cut off from life prematurely by accidents or
execution do not go through this full process until the time
comes when they would have died a natural death. All that a
suicide or the executioner can do is to cut off the physical
body; the process of second death, above described, has not taken
place, so that the man is alive minus the physical body. If he
has led a good and pure life, he sleeps; if his character during
life was evil or coarse, he thinks and feels accordingly but has
no physical form through which to act. This is a very dreadful
state to be in, for without a body, cravings cannot be satisfied.
Such entities deprived of bodies haunt the sites of crime,
drinking dens, and so on, and gain some degree of satisfaction.
Or they "obsess" living men, often causing them to perform
actions of which they are not fully aware. This is one reason
why crimes are often in greater evidence after wars. Motive is
the important factor and the state of one who sacrifices his life
for others will differ greatly from that of one who kills himself
to avoid punishment for wrongdoing.
The last words of the Buddha should be borne in mind:
"Impermanent are all conditioned beings." Quiet acquiescence in
what happens at its proper time affords no occasion for grief.
We have had many bodies and have died many times, so why should
we fear death now? Indeed natural death is a gateway to a life of
bliss, unalloyed bliss, without worry or care of any kind. We do
not know we are dead; there is no loneliness, no fear, for we
live entirely in our thoughts and surrounded by the memories of
loved ones and of the happy times that we have known, as lost in
that happy dream as we have been on earth when lost in a
All things end and so does this dream. Life again wakes us, and
once more, the ray of the Spirit goes out to inhabit a body and
to gain further experience. We meet again those we have loved
(or hated) and work with them. We have our hard corners rubbed
off and our good points of character strengthened, and even
though "sorrow is," yet life is good. Rebirths take place
compulsorily until all has been learnt and then rebirth becomes
Does this teaching throw any light on the problem of birth
control, or that of population? It does. If souls are waiting to
incarnate, what are we doing when we try to stop them? Nature
works according to the law of perfect economy. When we thwart
it, we reap consequences of which we had not dreamt!
THE NINTH ANNUAL THEOSOPHICAL GATHERING
By Wesley Amerman
[The following describes a recent theosophical conference held
August 9 and 10, 2003 in Long Beach and Los Angeles, California.]
Theosophists from all Theosophical groups and two continents
gathered on a recent weekend in Southern California to hear
talks, greet old friends, and make new ones amongst crowds
approaching a hundred each day.
On Saturday, we met at the Signal Hill Community Center to listen
to several presentations on the theme, "Synthesis as Unity."
Hosted by The Long Beach Theosophical Society President Peter
Gevorkian, the morning opened with a short introduction by Diane
Kaylor of New York. Peter then introduced and thanked Phyllis
Ryan of the Long Beach Theosophy Center, whose untiring energy
was responsible for much of the behind-the-scenes work to get
ready for the event.
David Roef of the United Lodge of Theosophists in Antwerp,
Belgium followed. He spoke on how the Theosophical world-view,
as described by H.P. Blavatsky, compares to other important
assumptions about the world: "Dualism, Objective Materialism, and
Subjective Idealism." Blavatsky called Theosophy a form of
Objective Idealism, which recognizes the temporary reality of all
phenomena as well as of our own consciousness. Like the yin and
yang of Eastern philosophies, the worlds of our minds and of our
bodies are mutually interdependent, and reflect yet higher levels
of essential Unity. Look for David's article on this subject in
a future issue of the magazine, THEOSOPHY.
After lunch, courtesy of the many supporting donations received,
two speakers gave entirely different but complementary
presentations using THE BHAGAVAD-GITA as inspiration. Dr. James
Colbert of the United Lodge of Theosophists in San Diego,
California talked on "The Psychotherapy of THE BHAGAVAD-GITA."
Thirty years of clinical experience has given him a wealth of
insights into the healing of human hearts. He has found that the
GITA provides a unique, practical model to guide us in
understanding others and ourselves.
Dr. Nandini Iyer of the United Lodge of Theosophists in Santa
Barbara, California, is a retired Professor of Philosophy at the
University of California, Santa Barbara. Dr. Iyer spoke on the
meaning of "dharma" as found in the GITA, linking it to a deeper
understanding of ourselves and of the roles that we play in the
The last presentation was a slide show and commentary by Garrett
Riegg of the United Lodge of Theosophists in San Francisco,
California, highlighting his recent trip to Nepal and Tibet.
Garrett's complementary interests in Theosophy and Tibetan
Buddhism provided a sympathetic depth to his material.
On Sunday morning, the venue changed to Theosophy Hall in Los
Angeles, where the English and Spanish study groups hosted a
bilingual meeting that began with a five-minute digital video
titled, "Spirit in Number," complete with musical soundtrack.
The DVD was a stylized interpretation of a portion of The Stanzas
of Dzyan upon which HPB based her Secret Doctrine. Lively
discussion followed for an hour and a half, in both English and
Spanish, ably hosted and translated by Alex Bianchi.
Sunday afternoon was a Fiesta Latina, or Latin Festival, held
outdoors on picnic tables and under canopies. We started with
wonderful food, including homemade tamales, then moved on to
music and dance, featuring a live mariachi band, Flamenco
dancers, a girl's dance troupe, guitar and solo vocalists that
lasted well into the afternoon. Enough energy remained to end
the evening with a thoughtful bilingual discussion of some of the
themes from earlier in the weekend.
These "gatherings" have grown over the years, beginning nearly a
decade ago in the small coastal Oregon town of Brookings and then
moved on to other locations. Every year is different; every year
someone else or a small group of people takes responsibility for
seeing them through; every year a new theme brings substance and
purpose to lend depth to the social interaction.
As Theosophists, we have more in common with other Theosophists
than we sometimes realize, and differences in groups take an
important backseat to the wider sense of brotherhood and
community. Evidence of this was the presence of five book tables
on Saturday: Theosophical University Press, The Theosophical
Society, Long Beach, Concord Grove Press, Santa Barbara, Point
Loma Publications, San Diego, and the San Diego Theosophists'
A spirit of cooperation, mutual purpose, and brotherhood pervaded
the entire weekend and volunteers came forward to plan another
event for next year. Forward suggestions and ideas to James and
Sally Colbert at email@example.com. Audio recordings of most of
each day's presentations were also made, and will hopefully be
available this Fall.
By Mabel Collins
[From LUCIFER, September 15, 1888, pages 15-18.]
At every active moment of our lives, in moments of pain or
pleasure, even then Death lies doggedly in our future, waiting
the moment when we approach near enough for him to grasp and
With some people, Death is the great terror of their lives.
These are not necessarily "nervous" people in the ordinary sense;
possibly, they are very brave, and in a moment of excitement
would forget their fear of Death entirely. It is indeed
surprising how men of this caliber will let the dread of Death
haunt them, sit at their feasts, and accompany them into the dark
hours of the night.
A man of this sort, honest, straightforward, but entirely a man
of the world, once candidly expressed himself in this manner: "I
am afraid to die because I have done so many bad deeds that I am
sure to go to hell." It appeared on further talk that he owned no
religion, had no idea of Heaven or a state of reward, but only
one fixed conception of an immortal state -- one in which he
would be punished for his sins on earth. This is the one terror
of a keenly active nature, with a great deal of good in it, and
an intellect overtopping others on the ordinary plane, but with
no power of thought on things eternal.
He is, perhaps, an advance on the ordinary man of the world, who
says quietly to himself with a little shudder sometimes, "I'll
have to die like other people; it is too detestable to think of;
but I'll not say a word about it, and die game. Meantime I will
Keats' phrase of "Easeful Death" reaches the opposite extreme of
feeling. Such a glad, soft word is unintelligible to most people
when applied to Death. Indeed, it is an instance of the fact in
occultism that pleasure and pain become the same after a certain
point of feeling. Death is painful; it is unpleasant; it is even
horrible in its grimmer aspects. Keats, who, like all great
poets, had suffered all things in his short span of life, knew
well that by the side of many forms of living, Death is indeed
The supreme characteristic of Death is its silence. This is the
most vivid horror it brings to those who lose one they love. It
is the secret of the tempting power Death holds out to those who
suffer keenly, to whom life is full of pain because of the
reverberating thought, the echo in the mind, the longing for
knowledge that never can be satisfied -- never!
"Master," says the neophyte to the Wise One, "is it true that the
hunger for knowledge can never be satisfied?"
The Wise One: "It is not you who ask me that, for you are too
sensible to do so. It is Servus who has uttered it as a truism,
and you have passed it onto me as a question."
The Neophyte: "Yes."
The Wise One: "Then I will answer you, Servus. The souls of
great poets have all their knowledge hidden within them. In
their passage through life and through death, it comes to them;
or, I should say, in their passage through many lives and many
deaths they suddenly blossom and retire from the life of the
world, for which they are now too great. But what I have just
said opens up another subject; one which to us can never be
separated from Death."
Servus: the slave of the world: "You mean rebirth, or rather,
reincarnation? But is there not a distinction in your use of
The Wise One: "Most certainly. Rebirth is a negative word,
which, when used by an Occultist, acquires a meaning different
from what it ordinarily bears. With us, it means that moment,
which comes to some men either in life or in the shades of death,
which makes of them new men. Reincarnation is, of course, simply
the passage from one earth form to another. Those who are indeed
reborn are freed from reincarnation."
Servus: "And do you not hold your place here, as teacher in this
temple, as being one who is reborn in this sense?"
The Wise One: "Not so. Those who reach this state cannot
approach the world."
Servus: "Then we of the world can never be taught by those who
The Wise One: "I, who endure your scoffs and insults, reached
knowledge by my patience. It is given to all to approach
knowledge, but some, alas, advance like the tortoise. My son,
let us enter the temple."
The Wise One and the Neophyte enter the temple, where is a little
crowd of other neophytes waiting for their master. Servus,
without, in the temple garden, sits lazily in the strong sun and
watches a lizard. Presently he looks up at the temple. He knows
that within there is a discussion of thought which chills him,
even though its margin attracts him intellectually. A feeling
comes over him that the knowledge of which this temple is a
symbol is handed on from race to race, until the races themselves
fall under a greater law. The thought dwarfs him, makes him of
no importance even to himself, and hurriedly he arises and goes
down the hillside to the city.
We are such pigmies that, as a rule, great thought dwarfs us and
we resent it; or we succeed in dwarfing it by the vulgar "Hobson
Newcome" method of refusing to believe in any other possibilities
in it save those evident to ourselves.
To the Hobson Newcomes of the world death is a thing to be put
off as long as possible, and then to be met with decency. He
might pull a wry face sometimes when, in walking to the City of a
morning, he got some gentle reminder that man is mortal, and his
thoughts of death are simply a picture-like vision of himself in
the four-post bed at home, Maria, his wife, crying bitterly over
him, and a doctor at his side. He cannot think any further about
himself. His mind wanders to Maria, how much she cries over
trifles, how wet weather is good for transplanting, and how she
will certainly marry again. Then he wonders can he do any more
in his will to make the young ones safe -- but there, he is at
his office, and with the sight of its pleasant face all
unpleasant thoughts vanish.
Death is one of the facts in our lives that stands like a great
thought, sublime and mysterious, at the end of our walk. Yet
thus can men rob the figure of its majesty and clothe it, in
their own minds, with the order of things familiar to them.
Blindly they go on, until one day they are tripped up, and the
others of his sort say, "Poor old fellow!" and go on just the
same without him.
To the sick man, worn out by suffering, death comes as a relief;
but this only means physical rest from endurance and weariness
too great for thought. Death is always terrible and grim, save
to those strange brilliant souls, too great for incarnation, to
which it comes as "easeful." Oh, flame of the poet's soul, which
escapes from the earth and the grass though feeling them not
unfriendly. It escapes to go on learning its fierce, passionate,
beautiful lessons of pleasure and pain, until at last it stands
purified and powerful.
Death may be transformed and made into a beautiful thing to the
minds of the people. Mr. Balfour is simply making martyrs by
his imprisonment. Mr. Dillon, languishing in his prison, must
know that if he dies every countryman of his, in every country,
will raise him to the rank of the martyrs, weep bitter tears to
his memory, and doubly hate the Government which does such deeds.
Thus there are many modes of regarding death, but to quote
Matthew Arnold's great line, the constant quotation of which
shows how bitter and well-known is the truth it contains, "We
mortal millions live alone."
These modes of regarding death are only mental, and generally
belong to men in groups. Hobson Newcome will forget all about
Maria and the children when he finds the fell hand upon his
throat. To him it will mean only fear. Others meet it
differently. It has all sorts of meanings to the changeful minds
of men; rest, without questioning; Heaven, without reproach;
Hell, with remorse added; hope of a better and more beautiful
existence than any known of in this world.
Among them all, the occultist passes undisturbed, knowing death
to be only a gateway and its terrible silence to be only the
shutting of the gate. He knows, too, that with him lies the
choice of his path when the gate is shut on sensation for the
precious brief moment of after-death.
The Wise One (coming from the temple with his pupils): "See --
the sun is setting. What do we know of it until it rises again?
What an emblem this is. For the moment, apply it to the subject
we have been talking of. Death thus pushes man from
consciousness, as the sun leaves us in darkness. The light
returns. Resurrection is everywhere -- here at our feet, where
last summer's flowers bloom again."
The Neophyte: "Rebirth then must come of itself."
The Wise One: "Yes, in eons. But he who desires it now must make
a supreme effort of growth."
By George William Russell
[From THE CANDLE OF VISION, Chapter XV, pages 128-36.]
Even where I had certitude that my attribution of element, form,
or color to a root was right I have never thought this exhausted
the range of its affinities in our manifold being. I went but a
little way within myself, but felt that greater powers awaited
discovery within us, powers whose shadowy skirts flicker on the
surface of consciousness but with motion so impalpable that we
leave them nameless.
The root I relate to light may have correspondence also with
another power which is to the dark divinity of being what light
is to the visible world. I have never thought that the languages
spoken by men had all their origin in one intuitional speech.
There may have been many beginnings in that undiscoverable
But I believe that one, or perhaps several, among the early
races, more spiritual than the rest, was prompted by intuition,
while others may have developed speech in any of the ways
suggested by biologists and scholars. The genius of some races
leads them to seek for light within as the genius of others leads
them to go outward.
I imagine a group of the ancestors lit up from within, endowed
with the primal blessings of youth and ecstasy, the strings of
their being not frayed as ours are, nor their God-endowed
faculties abused, still exquisitely sensitive, feeling those
kinships and affinities with the elements which are revealed in
the sacred literature of the Aryan, and naming these affinities
from an impulse springing up within.
I can imagine the spirit struggling outwards making of element,
color, form, or sound a mirror, on which, outside itself, it
would find symbols of all that was pent within it, and so
gradually becoming self-conscious in the material nature in which
it was embodied, but which was still effigy or shadow of a divine
I can imagine them looking up at the fire in the sky, and calling
out "El" if it was the light they adored, or if they rejoiced in
the heat and light together they would name it "Hel." Or if they
saw death, and felt it as the stillness or ending of motion or
breath, they would say, "Mor." Or if the fire acting on the water
made it boil, they would instinctively combine the sound
equivalents of water and fire, and "Wal" would be the symbol. If
the fire of life was kindled in the body to generate its kind,
the sound symbol would be "Lub." When the axe was used to cut,
its hardness would prompt the use of the hard or metallic
affinity in sound, and "Ak" would be to cut or pierce.
One extension of meaning after another would rapidly increase the
wealth of significance and recombination of roots the power of
expression. The root "M" with its sense of finality would
suggest "Mi" to diminish, and as to measure a thing is to go to
its ends, "Ma" would also mean to measure, and as to think a
thing is to measure it, "Ma" would also come to be associated
I had nearly all my correspondences vividly in mind before I
inquired of friends more learned than myself what were the
reputed origins of human speech, and in what books I could find
whatever knowledge there was, and then I came upon the Aryan
roots; and there I thought and still think are to be found many
evidences in corroboration of my intuitions.
There are pitfalls for one who has no pretensions to scholarship
in tracking words to their origins, and it is a labor for the
future in conjunction with one more learned than myself to
elucidate these intuitions in regard to the roots, and to go more
fully into the psychology which led to rapid extension of
meanings until words were created, which at first sight seem to
have no relation to the root values.
I still believe I can see in the Aryan roots an intelligence
struggling outward from itself to recognize its own affinities in
sound. But I wish here only to give indications and directions
of approach to that Divine Mind whose signature is upon us in
everything, and whose whole majesty is present in the least thing
I have written enough to enable those who are curious to exercise
their intuitions or analytic faculty in conjunction with their
scholarship, to test the worth of my intuitions. Intuition must
be used in these correspondences, for the art of using them is
not altogether discoverable by the intellect. I hope also that
my partial illumination will be completed, corrected, or verified
A second line of investigation I suggest is the study of some
harmony of primitive alphabets, such as that compiled by Forster,
and, after arranging the letters in their natural order from
throat sounds to labials, to see if there is not much to lead us
to suppose that there was an original alphabet, where the form
equivalents of sound proceeded in an orderly way from the circle
through the line, the triangle, and the other forms I have
Perhaps the true correspondences were retained as an esoteric
secret by the wisest, because there may have been in them the key
to mysteries only to be entrusted to those many times tested
before the secret of the use of power was disclosed.
I would suggest a study of that science of divine correspondences
which is embodied in mystical Indian literature. The
correspondences of form, color, or force with letters given there
are not always in agreement with my own. Sometimes as in THE
BHAGAVAD-GITA where Krishna, the Self of the Manifested Universe,
says, "I am the 'A' among letters," I find agreement.
In other works like the Shivagama there is partial agreement as
where it says, "Meditate upon the fire force with 'R' as its
symbol, as being triangular and red." The color and the letter
are here in harmony with my own intuitions, but the form is not,
and I am more inclined to believe my own intuition to be true
because I find in so many of the primitive alphabets the form
symbol of "R" is the line coming out of a circle. The water
force is given in the same book a semi-lunar form as
correspondence, but its sound symbol is given as "V" and not "W."
The earth force is given as quadrangular in form as I imagine it,
but the color is yellow. I have not investigated the consonants
in their attribution to the nervous system given in such books.
I have no doubt that in a more remote antiquity the roots of
language were regarded as sacred, and when chanted every letter
was supposed to stir into motion or evoke some subtle force in
the body. Tone and word combined we know will thrill the nervous
system, and this is specially so with lovers of music and persons
whose virgin sensitiveness of feeling has never been blunted by
A word chanted or sung will start the wild fires leaping in the
body, like hounds which hear their master calling them by name,
and to those whose aspiration heavenward has purified their being
there comes at last a moment when at the calling of the Ineffable
Name the Holy Breath rises as a flame and the shadow man goes
forth to become one with the ancestral self.
What is obvious in that ancient literature is the belief in a
complete circle of correspondences between every root sound in
the human voice and elements, forms, and colors, and that the
alphabet was sacred in character. Intuitions which modern
psychologists regard as evidence of decadence are found present
in the literature of antiquity.
The attributions sometimes are the same as mine; sometimes they
differ, but they suggest the same theory of a harmony of
microcosm with macrocosm, and it is carried out so that every
center in the body is named by the name of a divine power. It is
only by a spiritual science we can recover identity, renew, and
make conscious these affinities.
Life had other labors for me from which I could not escape, and I
had not for long the leisure in which to reknit the ties between
myself and the ancestral being. But while I still had leisure I
experienced those meltings of the external into intelligible
The form of a flower long brooded upon would translate itself
into energies, and these would resolve themselves finally into
states of consciousness, intelligible to me while I experienced
them, but too remote from the normal for words to tell their
story. I may have strayed for a moment into that Garden of the
Divine Mind where, as it is said in Genesis, "He made every
flower before it was in the field and every herb before it grew."
My failure to find words to express what I experienced made me
concentrate more intensely upon the relation of form and colour
to consciousness in the hope that analysis might make
intellectual exposition possible.
I do not wish to linger too long on the analysis I made. The
message of nature is more important than the symbols used to
convey it, and, in detailing these correspondences, I feel rather
as one whom reading Shelley's "Hymn of Pan" ignored all that
ecstasy and spoke merely of spelling or verse structure.
But why do I say that? The works of the Magician of the Beautiful
are not like ours and in the least fragment His artistry is no
less present than in the stars. We may enter the infinite
through the minute no less than through contemplation of the
I thought in that early ecstasy of mine when I found how near to
us was the King in His Beauty that I could learn to read that
marvelous writing on the screen of Nature and teach it to others;
and, as a child first learns its letters with difficulty, but
after a time leaps to the understanding of their combination, and
later, without care for letters or words, follows out the thought
alone; so I thought the letters of the divine utterance might be
taught and the spirit in man would leap by intuition to the
thought of the Spirit making that utterance.
For all that vast ambition I have not even a complete alphabet to
show, much less one single illustration of how to read the
letters of nature in their myriad intricacies of form, color, and
sound in the world we live in. But I believe that vision has
been attained by the seers, and we shall all at sometime attain
it, and, as is said in the Divine Shepherd of Hermes, it shall
meet us everywhere, plain and easy, walking or resting, waking or
sleeping, " for there is nothing which is not the image of God."
THE CHILD'S IDEA OF DEATH
By George Godwin
[From THE ARYAN PATH, February 1953, pages 76-79.]
Having written "The Child's Idea of Death," I ask myself, "Should
this not have been ' The Griefs of Childhood?'" For I think it is
true to say that, for a child, death -- a going away -- engenders
grief through loss, without any conception whatsoever of the
nature of death. A child may be moved emotionally by death, but
not as an adult is moved by it. For a child's grief arises out
of a sense of loss, of deprivation of what is familiar. From
observation, I do not think it goes beyond that, real and
profound as it may be for the short period of its effect.
No, a child does not mourn as an adult mourns. For in the adult
the death of one beloved evokes a grief that is not centered on
self, but arises out of the tragic sense of human destiny. This
is the sense that all passes, all perishes. Mercifully, it is
withheld from the children. For them the only reality is Life,
with death merely as a lamented or inconvenient "going away" of
some familiar person, animal, or inanimate but well-loved thing.
This, in some part, explains what often appears as callousness,
as lack of feeling, in the child confronted by the experience of
a death in the family circle. It helps us also to understand, by
a process of imaginative sympathy, the curious apparent disparity
between cause and effect in the emotional reactions of the child.
The death of a white mouse, a goldfish, or a kitten will evoke
intense grief. The death of an aunt, a grandmother, or some
other adult within the daily-life orbit of the child evokes
complete -- and apparent -- callousness.
One or two personal experiences may help to illustrate this.
The first concerns the children of a large family dominated by an
invalid grandmother, much feared and little loved. When this old
woman lay dying, and seemed to those awaiting her end to be, like
King Charles II, an unconscionable time about it, one child was
delegated each day to go to the bedroom door and ask of the
nurse, "Is Grandma finished yet?"
For these children the hoped-for announcement of the death of
their grandmother meant the welcome end of a hated tyranny; and
their concern went no further than that. The spectacle of their
father's anxiety for his dying mother left them untouched. I
think they wondered why he did not share their contrary hopes,
since the old woman bullied her son as she did her grandchildren.
They had no understanding whatsoever of the emotional distresses
of the adults about them.
The other case illustrates well, I think, two points. First, the
great love which children can bestow upon their pets; secondly,
the brevity of their grief on the death of a loved small
Three children were involved, two little girls, one 10, the other
14, and a boy of 10. Two of the children, the elder girl and the
boy, were French. The trio had made a great pet of a black
female kitten. It was blue-eyed and adorable, as small kittens
usually are. One morning, I came down and found it drowned in a
water butt in the cottage garden.
It seemed kindest to bury the victim before the children came
down to breakfast. They had left it a ball of black fluff, full
of abundant life. It now lay, waterlogged and dank, on the spade
with which I had fished it from the water. I buried the kitten
but, knowing that the children would want to know where their pet
lay, I made a little rough cross of pea-sticks and added a small
circlet of lobelias for a wreath.
The little English girl, who dearly loves all small creatures,
was in great distress. She gazed at the little grave for a long
time and then said, "May I dig her up?" She wished to see her pet
once more. She was experiencing the pain of parting, which is
the child's limited understanding of the finality of death.
After eating breakfast in silence, this child returned to the
little grave. She is accompanied now by her two French
It was decided that the kitten's grave should be made really
worthy of her. They sat down and began to make wreaths from the
little flowers of a brick-path border. This was done with deep
concentration and obvious awareness of the funeral nature of the
What is a funeral without a funeral service? This was the French
girl's reaction. She liked dressing up. They all agreed upon
this. There must be a proper funeral service for the kitten. A
little later, this was in full swing. A nightdress served as a
priest's vestments. The dinner bell and much perambulating
around the grave gave an air of verisimilitude to the
Already the first grief was passing away. What had been
conceived as a funeral rite had already become a game. As I
watched, unobserved, I saw the funeral procession proceed
rapidly, with wild hoots of merriment.
Yes, what started as a sad, sad rite became an enchanting game in
less than an hour. The little corpse beneath the sod was quite
forgotten. Such is childhood's grief!
Because a child's grief is short-lived, it would be, I am sure, a
mistake to regard the emotions of children as shallow. While
they are aroused, they can be as intense as the emotions of an
adult: perhaps more intense. Love and hatred are deeply felt
emotions in many children. In one direction, the emotions lead
to the point of sublimity. In the other, they lead well within
the shadows of abnormal psychology.
A case recorded in the annals of my own family, which I came upon
a few years ago in an old correspondence, illustrates the
profound depths of feeling that may torment the soul of a child.
The child, a little girl of four, was intensely jealous of the
baby sister. The baby died in its first year. It was placed in
the small coffin and left thus so that it might be looked at for
the last time by those who loved it. The little girl so hated
this small sister, even in death, that she crept into the bedroom
and cracked the infant's skull with a blow from a stone held in
her little hand.
Nor was that early evidence of a later tendency to crime or
cruelty. The child sought revenge on the one that had stole from
her part of the love that had been exclusively hers. That act of
aggression against the dead, perhaps, suggests the child's mental
and emotional identity with the primitive savage. Cradled or
coffined, the baby was not beyond the range of her hatred.
What, then, does a child feel about its own mortality? Man, the
only animal with foreknowledge of death, contrives in the rich
feast of life to put away from himself this deep hidden
knowledge. I do not think a child possesses it. I believe that
for children "death" is something that happens to others, but
never to oneself. Children, I am sure, believe that they will
never die. Indeed, many adults cling to this belief in secret.
People originate doctrines of immortality from this belief or
arrive at them by a process of wishful thought. This is not to
dismiss, offhand, the problem of the survival of human
personality after death, with which these few general remarks on
the child's idea of death are not concerned.
The inability of children to apprehend the real nature of the
death of the body is sometimes illustrated by examples a good
deal less charming than that which I have given of the funeral
rites accorded a pet kitten by three children.
It occurs, now and then, that a child destroys the life of
another child and does so under circumstances that suggest,
judged by standards applicable to adults, a very real degree of
turpitude. Small boys have been known to kill a chosen victim,
and the action has brought them before the courts. In one such
case, Professor Sioli, the Italian psychiatrist, said of a boy
that held another under water until he was drowned, "Nice
children sometimes do these things."
I do not pretend to the degree of imaginative sympathy that would
be required to see such an act as it might have been experienced
by the offending child. One may hazard the guess that curiosity
enters into such actions, and that there is in the perpetrator of
them no understanding of their true character.
The inability of children to realize the fact of death does not
apply, I am sure, to children in or past adolescence, or even
those who are past the twelfth year. It is at about that age
level that children begin to ponder upon the subject. It may not
be presented as a personal problem by some death in the family,
and may be merely an intellectual preoccupation. It may be much
more where death has come, suddenly and unexpectedly, to either
parent or playmate.
If I may, I will cite a personal experience in this connection
that has at least the merit of being firsthand knowledge. I was
at the time at a preparatory school in Brighton. I was 12 years
of age. One day I quarreled with another boy. We fought
violently, as boys of that age often do, and I beat my opponent.
Three days later the headmaster, with a solemn face, told us that
this boy had died in hospital, following an operation.
The effect of this upon me was profound, as is evidenced by the
circumstance that after many years I can recall my boyhood
emotions. I was plunged into a terrible gloom, in which horror,
incredulity, fear, and a sense of guilt entered, along with
inability to realize that this boy had vanished forever. I do
not think I was more sensitive than other boys were. That sudden
confrontation of my childhood mind and imagination by the King of
Terrors left a mark that remained, and remained permanently.
It would be pleasant, I suppose, if one could deal with a theme
like this so that all comes rounded off and as we would have it;
but that cannot be if one would strive after truth.
Looking back across the years, then, I ask myself at this moment
whether the grief I felt at the death of a schoolfellow could be
compared with that which I experienced at the loss of a wooden
toy sailor in my second year. That loss was my first experience
of grief. I have known grief many times since, and sometimes
with anguish beyond words -- as when half my fellow subalterns
failed to return after the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Yet the memory
of the sorrow that followed on the loss of a wooden toy abides.
How strange, indeed, is the soul of a child!
APOLLONIUS OF TYANNA, Part XIII
By Phillip A Malpas
[The following comes from a series that appeared in THE
THEOSOPHICAL PATH, under Katherine Tingley as Editor and
published at the Point Loma Theosophical Community. It later
appeared in book form under the title TRUE MESSIAH: THE STORY AND
WISDOM OF APOLLONIUS OF TYANA 3 B.C. -- 96 A.D., published by
Point Loma Publications.]
The philosopher Demetrius, so noted for his independence and
outspoken manner for which he afterwards suffered banishment
although characterized by Seneca as an example of exalted genius
uncorrupted in a world of corruption, came to Rome about this
time. He was so devoted to Apollonius that suspicion was
aroused. People whispered that even that devotion was the result
of selfish magic. They supposed that Apollonius might be behind
his acts, of which we quote an example.
Nero was celebrating the anniversary of the completion of his
wonderful gymnasium, the admiration of Rome. The senate and the
equestrian order assembled. The sacrifices performed with full
ceremony. It was a great triumph for Nero. Then Demetrius
entered and pronounced an oration stigmatizing all who bathed in
it as effeminate; he declared that the expense was an extravagant
Undoubtedly, he would have lost his life, but Nero that day was
vastly pleased with the world in general for he had outdone
himself in singing, not a very difficult matter, one may suppose,
for a man with such an unpleasant discordant voice! This he had
done in a tavern, a public house -- a saloon, -- near the
gymnasium, naked but for a girdle tied round his waist, which
scanty clothing distinguished him from the regulars of the bar,
since they had not even a girdle.
Tigellinus, however, who was practically the Chief of Police,
banished Demetrius from the city for his daring. This Tigellinus
was a type of the average corrupt office-holder. He kept a
"vigilant but silent eye" over Apollonius, having every little
word and deed however small or innocent reported to him. One
fact was held to be very suspicious when a clap of thunder
occurred during an eclipse. The great Cappadocian raised his
eyes at this unknown prodigy and said, "A great event shall or
shall not happen." This was not exactly what one might call a
committal statement, but when three days later a thunderbolt fell
on the table while Nero sat at supper and smashed the cup he was
lifting to his lips to drink from, it was understood.
Tigellinus did not know what to make of it. He supposed
Apollonius must be deeply skilled in divine matters and was
afraid, but kept it to himself in silence. He still maintained
his spy-system, however, so that he was informed if Apollonius
said anything, or if, on the other hand, he said nothing.
If the Cappadocian went for a walk, it was immediately reported.
If he did not go for a walk, but stayed at home, that was
reported too. If he had his dinner by himself, Tigellinus was
kept posted by his sleuths, but if Apollonius had a guest, ah,
that was something that had to be reported and entered in his
dossier. If Apollonius sacrificed, it had to be told. If he did
not sacrifice, then there was something suspicious about it,
never a doubt.
The secret police of Tigellinus did what secret police have
always done when dealing with a man whose life is so absolutely
and philosophically straightforward that he differed from the
folk around him, from the time of Socrates to the guards of the
Bastille with their net around the innocent Cagliostro. In
short, whether Apollonius did anything or did not do anything,
the spies noted it carefully for their chief. Of course, as
always happens in such cases, they condemned him on some utterly
This time it was an outbreak of asthma or 'flu.' When the raucous
divine voice of their prize fighting Nero was affected, then the
matter became serious. The temples were crowded with votaries
offering prayers for his recovery. That dreadful fellow
Apollonius, however, never said a word; he did not even rebuke
these hypocritical devotees of their vaudeville Emperor, the
ruler of the entire world that mattered. Menippus was not
indifferent. He could hardly contain himself with indignation.
"Restrain yourself," said Apollonius. "The gods may be forgiven
if they take pleasure in the company of clowns and jesters."
This was reported to the chief of police, of course. This time
they had caught their man. Immediate arrest on a charge of high
treason or offence against the sovereign followed, and one of the
cleverest of the informers or spies or shyster lawyers in the
place was ready with his cunningly contrived accusation that the
innocence of a baby could not escape. This man was an artist, a
specialist, a detective par excellence. Had he not brought ruin
to many and many a man, and was he not full of such Olympian
What a scene in that Roman police court! The cards were stacked,
the case was forejudged, and yet none could say that it was not a
fair trial, since all the forms of law were there, exactly as in
the case of the child Joan of Arc centuries later. Apollonius
was not a child and Tigellinus was not Bishop Cauchon.
The lawyer was in high spirits. He flourished his scroll of the
accusation before Apollonius as though it were a sword. "This
weapon has a sharp edge," he boasted. "Your hour has come at
Tigellinus took the scroll and unfolded it. It was a perfect
blank. So were the faces of his accusers!
Tigellinus was impressed, as well he might be. He took
Apollonius into the private room of the court where the most
solemn business was conducted. He cleared the court and
interviewed his prisoner alone.
"Who are you," he asked.
Apollonius told him his name, and that of his father and his
country. He also told him the use he made of philosophy, which
was to know gods and men. "To know oneself," he said, "that is
the most difficult of all things!"
"How is it you discover demons, and the apparitions of specters,"
asked his interlocutor, who was an impious man and one who
encouraged and supported Nero in his cruelty, debauchery, and his
"Just as I do homicidal and impious men," said Apollonius, not
without a suspicion of sarcasm in his tone.
"Will you prophesy for me if I ask you," went on Tigellinus,
quite willing to change the subject.
"How can I? I am not a soothsayer," said Apollonius.
"It is reported that you were the one who said that a great event
would or would not take place."
"True enough," said Apollonius, "but that had nothing to do with
the art of divination. It is rather that wisdom that Jupiter
makes manifest to the wise!"
"How is it," said Tigellinus, "that you have no fear of Nero?" It
was certainly a puzzle.
"Because the same Deity that made him formidable made me bold,"
said the philosopher.
There was one more question to catch this wily reasoner in
treason, if he could not be tricked into admission of the use of
'magic arts.' "What do you think of the Emperor?"
"Better than you do! You think he ought to sing, and I think he
ought to hold his tongue," was the calm reply.
Tigellinus had no more to say to this wonderful man.
"You can go where you please, only you must give security for
your appearance when called upon." It was rather an unusual
condescension for Tigellinus.
"Who can go bail for what cannot be bound," asked his prisoner.
"Well, you can go where you please," replied Tigellinus. He gave
up the contest. His authority could not cope with what he saw
was a divine power. It is no use fighting the gods, he
concluded, not without reason.
RAISING THE CONSUL'S DAUGHTER
A girl, of consular family, died at the time she was about to be
married. The man who was to have married her followed among the
mourners, who were many, because of her social position. "All
Rome condoled with him."
Apollonius met the funeral procession. He stopped and desired
the bearers to set down the bier.
"I will dry up the tears you are shedding for the girl," he said.
"What is her name?"
The spectators were touched. Here was this foreign philosopher,
a strange man, truly, but one whom many regarded as a god, and
who was welcome in every temple, stopping to deliver a funeral
ovation, to soothe the feelings of the relatives and mourners,
and to enlist the compassion of the passers by.
He did nothing of the sort. He bent over the girl and merely
touched her as he spoke a few words in a low tone of voice over
her body; none apparently heard just what he said.
The girl sat up and began to speak. The whole party returned to
her father's house, as the tale swiftly passed through every
gossip in Rome that Apollonius had raised a high official's
daughter to life, adding marvels as the tale grew, until it
probably became utterly unrecognizable.
The recorder of the history shows his good sense, however, in his
"It is as difficult for me as it was to all who were present, to
ascertain whether Apollonius discovered the vital spark, which
had escaped the doctors, for it is said it rained at the time,
which caused the vapor to rise from her face, or whether he
cherished and brought back the soul to life, which was apparently
It would be well if all historians of great lives were as
judicious in their relations. The fact that Philostratus makes
such a remark shows that he himself was a student of the
philosophy of Apollonius, which was that of Pythagoras, which was
that of Iarchas himself and his school.
MUSONIUS IN PRISON
We see the brave attitude of the philosophers in the face of
persecution shown in the correspondence of Apollonius and
Musonius, "who excelled most others in philosophy."
During his confinement, he deprecated all intercourse with
Apollonius lest it might endanger both of them. The letters that
passed were taken by Menippus and Damis, who both had access to
the prison. Here are several of those that passed.
> From Apollonius
> To Musonius the Philosopher
> I wish to go to you and enjoy your conversation and roof. I wish
> to be in some way or other useful to you. If you doubt not that
> Hercules delivered Theseus from the shades, write your pleasure.
> From Apollonius
> To Musonius the Philosopher
> Your proposal is worthy of all praise. The man that is able to
> clear himself and prove he is guilty of no crime will deliver
> From Apollonius
> To Musonius the Philosopher
> Socrates the Athenian refused being delivered by his friends. He
> was guilty of no crime cognizable by the court that tried him.
> Yet he died.
Who shall doubt that the diamond spirit of these grand
philosophers shone in that corrupt age with such a light that it
gave comfort to those who suffered for the sake of truth in still
darker ages, and yet suffer, with a joyful heart?
The next time Apollonius heard of his unselfish friend was at the
Corinth canal that Nero "did or did not cut." He was digging in a
convict gang, but his spirit was unbroken. The fact is a proof
that Apollonius was running a very real danger in his visit to
Rome and that the eight who followed him needed all their
courage. Apollonius was right when he refused to blame the
twenty-six who left him on the way.
Now Nero went down into Greece and so great was his fear of magic
and of philosophy that he first decreed the banishment of all
philosophers from Rome.
Apollonius decided to visit the Western world, said to end at
Gibraltar and Cadiz. He would see the ebb and flow of the ocean
tides and the city of Cadiz. It was said that its inhabitants
possessed a philosophy that approached divine wisdom.
All his company went with him, praising not only his
determination in making such a journey, but also the object for
which it was made.
This appears to have been about the year 66 A.D., when Apollonius
was nearing seventy years of age.
THE WILL OF THE WHITE KNIGHT
By James Sterling
The white-spinning orb fills the sky tonight;
Astral currents running like a fever,
Filling my soul with higher thoughts,
Pure and simple,
As the will of the white knight
Grows and glows.
Pureness of thought, exactness of mind,
And unriveted concentration, moves the
Budding chela further inward.
Tests, grueling tests, strengthen a sturdy will;
Stronger with every act of kindness.
Love beams from penetrating eyes,
Eyes filled with sorrow for the world
Suffering in a black age.
Learning the ways of the Magus,
Waiting for the teacher to show the way.
The Higher Self, the True Self of Humanity,
Teaches and pushes him upward.
The tests are precise in their lessons,
But he never flinches. Almost.
Besides perfect love, the pain of others
Is the only sensation worth feeling.
Once on the stage of magic,
The incantations murmur in the tiny room.
Commencing to perfect the power of the will,
Thought, and understand the astral light,
And our unique position in the Kosmos.
The war on the black is just beginning;
Now a meek chela but becoming the Spiritual Warrior.
The will is never extinguished;
The soul is determined to see a destiny fulfilled.
"Learn your lessons well, young chela,"
Mutters a full-faced moon.
"The world is waiting for you."
THINKING VERSUS READING
By Jasper Niemand
[From THE PATH, June 1888, pages 87-92.]
The opinion of theosophical students divides in respect to
reading. There are those who consider the chief source of
learning is study, while others deprecate reading and urge us to
confine our efforts to "living the life." The truth is that both
methods combine. They serve different departments of the same
end. By study -- especially of scriptures -- we form more ideas
of what "the life" may be and in what way we shall live it. By
living it, we correct all mistaken ideas. We shave and prune the
excrescence of the mind.
We apply spiritual (impersonal) ideas in daily life. We study
how we may hold to them amid the practical routine. We discover
them within material conditions and things. We put forth effort
to develop them. Doing so through the spiritual will, we broaden
our nature and alchemize it into spiritual essences and powers.
Nothing is wholly material. If it were, it could not exist. It
could not cohere for an instant. Spirit is that mysterious force
which is within all things, enabling them to "live" or advance
through successive changes. In THE BHAGAVAD-GITA, we find that
Purusha and Prakriti, or Spirit (energy) and Nature, forever
As all the powers existing in the macrocosm have their various
specific seats in man, it follows plainly that, if we wish to
evolve more rapidly by means of these powers, as the universe
also evolves by them, we must think and think within ourselves.
These forces are under the guidance of will, thought, and
knowledge. (In Sanskrit, they are Itchasakti, Kriyasakti, and
Gnanasakti. See page 110 of FIVE YEARS OF THEOSOPHY.) Reading
will never enable us to reach them. Thinking may put us on
Examine this question of reading. What is it that we do when we
read? It is not reading to repeat, parrot like, words that we
instantly forget like the infant class over its primer. The eye
encounters certain words and conveys an idea to the brain. Is
this all that happens? For certain persons, it is all. They
accept this idea as a form, a crystallization representing a
certain state of things. If it attracts them, they retain and
quote it. Otherwise, they dismiss it. In either case, it is to
They have their brains stored with such formulas. They have
never lived them out, even in the mind. They do not really know
the idea represented by this form of words at all. The fancy or
prejudice has been tickled by mere sound. This is so much
useless lumber. Show them what some of their favorite ideas
really involve if carried out and they will cast them aside in
disgust or dismay. Depreciate this sort of reading along with
the kind undertaken to "pass time."
They do not see that an idea is a seed that, once planted, should
sprout and grow. They do not see that all ideas have a specific,
energetic life of their own, proportionate to the idea's vitality
or truth. None but occultists know that thought has a power of
self-reproduction, bearing a thousand-fold for use or misuse.
Occultists know of its insidious and tremendous power. Part of
the vital energy and real being of a writer diffuses throughout
every page. This is true even of printed works, affecting
readers as a psycho-magnetic entity.
Every thought modifies the mind. It energizes according to the
nature of those thoughts, diffusing a pernicious, weak, or
beneficent force about us. Forcing thoughts upon the mind too
rapidly, we gorge it; we give ourselves mental dyspepsia and an
unhealthy condition, not only in the internal organ called mind,
but also in the physical organs that quickly respond to its
condition. A habit of the mind soon forms and like the
dyspeptic, it craves abnormal quantities of food, alternated with
periods of sluggish inertia.
Moreover, the mind habituates to certain stimuli. If we feed it
long upon novels or excitement, it will reject healthier food.
Something within us, knowing and striving to make us know, takes
advantage of the vibration set up in the mental (and through that
to the outer) man to transfuse his understanding with more light.
This is a greater reason for a careful choice of reading.
This something, this soul, leaps up within us, touched by the
current flowing from those thoughts, and asserts of them, "They
are true" or "They are false!" Thus, books may help us to
remember or recall what we have lost. No man to whom life is
sacred will wish to expend those energies of which life consists
in any idle fashion, developing the lower forms of those energies
when the higher are equally at his command.
How shall we read? When we have reason to believe that the writer
knows somewhat of his subject, we may assume a receptive
attitude. Where such is not the case, we cannot usefully read at
all. We may not judge our author. He may have found truths
unsuited to us now, or teach them in ways that we are unfitted to
pursue. This being so, we shall do well to avoid what is at
present unhealthy nourishment.
Where we feel attracted and read, we receive the idea into our
minds. Submitting ourselves passively to its influence, note
what impression stamps upon the sensitized plate within. We feel
the true character of the idea rather than intellectually cognize
it. By such a study of the interior impression, we receive the
verdict of the hidden judge. We need dread no Vehmgericht
(secret tribunal of old) but this. By it, all stands or falls.
To attain this end, we must hold ourselves still. The outer self
must maintain an attitude of suspended judgment. Otherwise, our
mere personality comes up with quips, cranks, whims, opinions,
and loves, drowning the inner voice with its racket and hubbub.
Another way of utilizing ideas is to assume their merit and to
study wherein that merit may possibly consist, what fine ray has
escaped our grosser sight. For example, I quote to a comrade:
> We must be ready to say at any moment, in whatever circumstances,
> whether expected or unexpected, "It is just what I in fact
> -- THE PATH, February 1888, page 328
My comrade replied that this appeared to him hypocritical. If he
lost an arm, for instance, he could cheerfully submit, but he
could not in truth say that he desired that accident. This
objection has a surface correctness. Had he read with an
assumption that the line must have some truth in it and had he
examined it in that belief, he would doubtless have found its
true bearing. Such personal exertion opens up a mind and
nourishes it as no artificial injection can do.
That true bearing is that the reincarnating soul has chosen those
circumstances most needed for its evolution. To work out that
evolution, we must work through our Karma. There is no other
way. Hence, my Higher Self or real self did in fact desire just
that body and all its Karmic circumstances and life as a
necessary experience for my soul now. The soul has to pass
through all experiences, and though the little "I" may not desire
them, the big "I" does. We can base no true statements upon the
assumption that the personality or even the lower principles of
the soul are the real ego at all.
There is again another point we guard against in reading books
other than sacred writings, whose inner meaning we strive to
assimilate. It is the reverse of the one above stated,
cautioning us against too great mental hospitality. It is the
danger of basing our faith upon the personality of the writer.
If we do this, were he the Jove of Theosophy himself, we may
receive injury rather than benefit. We may have good reason to
believe him knowledgeable. Has he has assimilated that
knowledge? This is again another question. An initiate will have
done so, and the real value of his writings is in his being the
truths that he gives out. He is himself the word and the sign of
Only as far as he has lived out and become his knowledge can he
impart it to his readers beneficially. Otherwise, he risks
presenting partial Truths through the medium of his own
personality, tingeing or slightly coloring them thereby. In this
way, with the best will in the world perhaps, he gives to
students himself. He does not give the Truth, only his warped
edition of it. As an occult fact, we can only gives ourselves
and no more; hence, to give Truth we must be it.
Herein lays the value of the writings of initiates, ending with
those of our beloved Madame Blavatsky, who alone has dared to
speak plainly to her era. The movement she inaugurated and the
wellspring of teachings she opened for us to draw upon have been
the means of renown for many writers who, without her initial
courage, had never won an audience or a name. Even as one of the
very least of these, I say, "May we never forget the debt!"
Were all readers forewarned and ready to discount the
personality, this danger lessens. Such discrimination in these
matters is a spiritual quality not yet generally found among men.
It is a power of the soul, a more or less direct perception of
Truth. It behooves the writer desirous of serving mankind to
look well to his words, to the form in which he imprisons the
Truth he has found. It behooves the writer to strive earnestly
only to give forth as much of it as he embodies in his life, as
much as he has become.
We do great harm by the spread of brain and lip knowledge, to be
proven false supports by suffering men. Better that we take the
tone of suggestion than that of authority. We may have touched
upon our higher powers without having fully raised the nature to
them. While we are but man, we only see by glimpses. Then the
veil falls again. I would preface all writings with the request
that the reader guides himself by his own natural selection
Many writers, too, have come into this life with a special task
to perform. They have something to say or to give. When done,
their usefulness to humanity is over. They seem then to have
outlived themselves long before their bodies pass into the ranks
of the unseen and their virility and life-giving power have
departed. We often see this fatal high-water mark in the life of
the poet, the painter, the leader we followed and loved. We see
that he can never surpass it, that he has touched his highest
state for this incarnation. To remain there is impossible.
Nature decrees that he advances or recedes. There is no standing
Who has set this fatal limit? We see clearly that the man alone
has done himself this wrong. It is Karma, but a type of Karma of
his own making. Some pass beyond that limit to intellectual
greatness. In doing so, they pass beyond our ordinary sight,
joining the silent workers in the Lodge of Truth. Our only
indication of their progress is that they have never fallen lower
than the great level where we last saw them standing. They have
never followed up their words of power by the impotent babble of
Few indeed are these men, for "Many are called, but few are
chosen." They are those who have a Karmic stock of spiritual
energy sufficient to flood them over the crisis. They use their
highest intellectuality as a steppingstone to that which lies
beyond intellect and above thought.
Lesser men suffer. They have done and sacrificed much. They do
not understand why people no longer snatch their words from their
lips and pass them along to the expectant throng eagerly. It is
because their words are vain repetitions. They no longer speak
living, winged things.
The speaker has not renewed his thought. He has fallen to
worshipping his own methods. He makes an apotheosis of his
present knowledge instead of reaching up to the realms of real
life for new, vital essences. Thought, however broad, follows a
circle at last. In that circle, the speaker runs like a squirrel
turning a wheel with puerile activity.
As a man thinks that he has done or sacrificed something, he
should see his mistake. Deeds happen through him, not by him.
His so-called sacrifice was an opportunity to rise to greatness.
Only his half methods limit it to a sacrifice. Some cry out in
despair that it was better to do nothing at all. I would not say
that. The irresistible waves surge onward, bearing us to a
certain point. We may lie there long. Still, we can never lose
this progress. Pity that we should not arise and go further, not
waiting for the next tide.
These considerations show us that disagreements between
theosophical writers are often unavoidable. The writers are but
men and women. It is to our advantage to use our discriminative
powers, strengthening them by use so we do not injure ourselves
by these differences. We harm ourselves more if we stake our
faith upon any one or several writers. When our idols crumble,
and crumble they must, we often end up in the dust beneath them,
stunned and wounded by their fall.
"Let a man learn to bear the disappearance of the things he was
wont to reverence without losing his reverence." Emerson never
wrote a truer word. We are instruments in mighty hands. If we
turn our edge, we must expect them to lay us aside. Refrain from
solidifying our thoughts into a system and our reports of Truth
into dogmas. We should not dazzle ourselves even by the highest
heavens, but must worship Truth alone.
The problem for both writer and reader consists of eschewing mere
forms, to look beyond words to the principles they represent
faintly. A man represents one or more universals. His thought
should do the same. He will never mislead while he gives us
these. Looking for nothing less, we will never misunderstand
All reading is useless as far as spiritual progress is concerned.
We cannot progress upon the above lines. If they limit your
reading, they will extend your thinking. So much the better, for
thinking is the path toward becoming.
"What a man thinks, that he is. This is the old secret," say the
Upanishads. There is a way of taking a thought and brooding over
it as a bird broods on the nest. By this method, the true
thought hatches out, manifesting itself to us. We must apply
these thoughts to the touchstone of our own souls. Reading and
thinking are not to be divorced. They should be one act. Then
each would correct and equilibrate the other.
My last word upon the subject I say emphatically. Never receive
and pass onward a thought that you do not feel and understand.
On this point, accept no authority other than your own soul.
It is better that you seem to lose a ray of Truth than to accept
and deflect it by a want of understanding, by a want of
assimilation of it. If it were yours in the Law, you cannot lose
it. It will come to you repeatedly until you receive it. Take
then what your nature selects until you reach a point where you
can rise above nature. When you reach this, you will not need to
read any longer, except from the wonderful book of life and from
those blessed Scriptures wherein the Divine has spoken to the
ages through men who had attained some share in His being.
TO WHOM THIS MAY COME, Part I
By Edward Bellamy
[This story appeared in THEOSOPHY, July 1938, pages 398-403, and
August 1938, pages 444-453]
It is now about a year since I took passage at Calcutta in the
ship Adelaide for New York. We had baffling weather until New
Amsterdam Island was sighted, where we took a new point of
departure. Three days later a terrible gale struck us. Four
days we flew before it, whither, no one knew, for neither sun,
moon, nor stars were at any time visible, and we could take no
Toward midnight of the fourth day, the glare of lightning
revealed the Adelaide in a hopeless position -- close in upon a
low-lying shore, and driving straight toward it. All around and
astern far out to sea was such a maze of rocks and shoals that it
was a miracle we had come so far. Presently the ship struck and
almost instantly went to pieces, so great was the violence of the
sea. I gave myself up for lost, and was indeed already past the
worst of drowning when I was recalled to consciousness by being
thrown with a tremendous shock upon the beach. I had just
strength enough to drag myself above the reach of the waves, and
then I fell down and knew no more.
When I awoke, the storm was over. The sun, already half-way up
the sky, had dried my clothing and renewed the vigor of my
bruised and aching limbs. On sea or shore, I saw no vestige of
my ship or my companions of whom I appeared the sole survivor. I
was not, however, alone. A group of persons, apparently the
inhabitants of the country, stood near, observing me with looks
of friendliness that at once freed me from apprehension as to my
treatment at their hands. They were a white and handsome people,
evidently of a high order of civilization, though I recognized in
them the traits of no race with which I was familiar.
Seeing that it was evidently their idea of etiquette to leave it
to strangers to open conversation, I addressed them in English,
but failed to elicit any response beyond deprecating smiles. I
then accosted them successively in the French, German, Italian,
Spanish, Dutch, and Portuguese tongues, but with no better
results. I puzzled over the nationality of a white and evidently
civilized race to which no one of the tongues of the great
seafaring nations was intelligible.
Oddest was the unbroken silence with which they contemplated my
efforts to open communication with them. It was as if they were
agreed not to give me a clue to their language by even a whisper,
for while they regarded one another with looks of smiling
intelligence, they did not once open their lips. If this
behavior suggested that they were amusing themselves at my
expense, that presumption was negated by unmistakable
friendliness and sympathy that their whole bearing expressed.
A most extraordinary conjecture occurred to me. Could it be that
these strange people were dumb? Such a freak of nature as an
entire race thus afflicted had never been heard of, but who could
say what wonders the unexplored vastness of the Great Southern
Ocean might thus far have hid from human ken?
Among the scraps of useless information which lumbered my mind
was an acquaintance with the deaf-and-dumb alphabet, and
forthwith I began to spell out with my fingers some of the
phrases I had already uttered to so little effect. My resort to
the sign language overcame the last remnant of gravity in the
already profusely smiling group. The small boys now rolled on
the ground in convulsions of mirth. The grave and reverend
seniors, who had hitherto kept them in check, were fain to avert
their faces momentarily. I could see their bodies shaking with
The greatest clown in the world never received a more flattering
tribute to his powers to amuse than had been called forth by mine
to make myself understood. Naturally, however, I was not
flattered, but, on the contrary, entirely discomfited. Angry I
could not well be, for the deprecating manner in which all,
excepting of course the boys, yielded to their perception of the
ridiculous, and the distress they showed at their failure in
self-control, made me seem the aggressor. It was as if they were
very sorry for me and ready to put themselves wholly at my
service if I would only refrain from reducing them to a state of
disability by being so exquisitely absurd. Certainly, this
evidently amiable race had a very embarrassing way of receiving
Just at this moment, when my bewilderment was fast verging on
exasperation, relief came. The circle opened, and a little
elderly man, who had evidently come in haste, confronted me, and
bowing very politely, addressed me in English. His voice was the
most pitiable abortion of a voice I had ever heard. While having
all the defects in articulation of a child's who is just
beginning to talk, it was not even a child's in strength of tone,
being in fact a mere alternation of squeaks and whispers
inaudible a rod away. With some difficulty I was, however, able
to follow him pretty nearly.
"As the official interpreter," he said, "I extend you a cordial
welcome to these islands. I was sent for as soon as you were
discovered, but being at some distance, I was unable to arrive
until this moment. I regret this, as my presence would have
saved you embarrassment. My countrymen desire me to intercede
with you to pardon the involuntary and uncontrollable mirth
provoked by your attempts to communicate with them. You see,
they understood you perfectly well, but could not answer you."
"Merciful heavens," I exclaimed, horrified to find my surmise
correct. "Can it be that they are all thus afflicted? Is it
possible that you are the only man among them who has the power
Again, it appeared that, quite unintentionally, I had said
something excruciatingly funny. At my speech, there arose a
sound of gentle laughter from the group, now augmented to quite
an assemblage, which drowned the plashing of the waves on the
beach at our feet. Even the interpreter smiled.
"Do they think it so amusing to be dumb," I asked.
"They find it very amusing," replied the interpreter, "that their
inability to speak should be regarded by any one as an
affliction, for it is by the voluntary disuse of the organs of
articulation that they have lost the power of speech, and as a
consequence the ability even to understand speech."
"But," said I, somewhat puzzled by this statement, "didn't you
just tell me that they understood me though they could not reply.
Are they not laughing now at what I just said?"
"It is you that they understood, not your words," answered the
interpreter. "Our speech now is gibberish to them, as
unintelligible in itself as the growling of animals; but they
know what we are saying because they know our thoughts. You must
know that these are the islands of the mind readers."
Such were the circumstances of my introduction to this
extraordinary people. The official interpreter being charged by
virtue of his office with the first entertainment of shipwrecked
members of the talking nations, I became his guest and passed a
number of days under his roof before going out to any
considerable extent among the people.
My first impression had been the somewhat oppressive one that the
power to read the thoughts of others could only be possessed by
beings of a superior order to man. It was the first effort of
the interpreter to disabuse me of this notion. It appeared from
his account that the experience of the mind readers was a case
simply of a slight acceleration from special causes of the course
of universal human evolution, which in time was destined to lead
to the disuse of speech and the substitution of direct mental
vision on the part of all races. This rapid evolution of these
islanders was accounted for by their peculiar origin and
Some three centuries before Christ, one of the Parthian Kings of
Persia, of the dynasty of the Arsacidae, undertook a persecution
of the soothsayers and magicians in his realms. These people
were credited with supernatural powers by popular prejudice. In
fact, they were merely persons of especial gifts in the way of
hypnotizing, mind reading, thought-transference, and such arts,
which they exercised for their own gain.
Too much in awe of the soothsayers to do them outright violence,
the King resolved to banish them. To this end, he put them, with
their families, on ships and sent them to Ceylon. When, however,
the fleet was in the neighborhood of that island, a great storm
scattered it, and one of the ships, after being driven for many
days before the tempest, was wrecked upon one of an archipelago
of uninhabited islands far to the south where the survivors
settled. Naturally, the posterity of parents possessed of such
peculiar gifts had developed extraordinary psychical powers.
Having set before them the end of evolving a new and advanced
order of humanity, they had aided the development of these powers
by a rigid system of producing a pure race by careful breeding.
The result was that after a few centuries mind reading became so
general that language fell into disuse as a means of
communicating ideas. For many generations, the power of speech
remained voluntary. Gradually the vocal organs had become
atrophied. For several hundred years, the power of articulation
had been wholly lost. For a few month after birth, infants did,
indeed, still emit inarticulate cries, but at an age when in less
advanced races these cries began to be articulate, the children
of the mind readers developed the power of direct mental vision,
ceasing to attempt to use the voice.
The fact that the existence of the mind readers had never been
found out by the rest of the world was explained by two
considerations. In the first place, the group of islands was
small and occupied a corner of the Indian Ocean quite out of the
ordinary track of ships. In the second place, the approach to
the islands was rendered so desperately perilous by terrible
currents and the maze of outlying rocks and shoals that it was
next to impossible for any ship to touch their shores save as a
wreck. No ship at least had ever done so in the two thousand
years since the mind readers' own arrival. The Adelaide had made
the one hundred and twenty-third such wreck.
Apart from humanitarian motives, the mind readers made strenuous
efforts to rescue shipwrecked persons as from them alone through
the interpreters could they obtain information of the outside
world. Little enough this proved when, as often happened, the
sole survivor of a shipwreck was some ignorant sailor, with no
news to communicate beyond the latest varieties of forecastle
blasphemy. My hosts gratefully assured me that as a person of
some little education they considered me a veritable godsend. No
less a task was mine than to relate to them the history of the
world for the past two centuries, and often did I wish, for their
sakes, that I had made a more exact study of it.
It is solely for communicating with shipwrecked strangers of the
talking nations that the office of the interpreters exists.
When, as from time to time happens, a child is born with some
powers of articulation, he is set apart and trained to talk in
the interpreters' college. Of course, the partial atrophy of the
vocal organs, from which even the best interpreters suffer,
renders many of the sounds of language impossible for them.
None, for instance, can pronounce "v," "f," or "s." As to the
sound represented by "th," it is five generations since the last
interpreter lived who could utter it. Except for the occasional
intermarriage of shipwrecked strangers with the islanders it is
probable that the supply of interpreters would have long ere this
I imagine that the unpleasant sensations following the
realization that I was among people who, while inscrutable to me,
knew my very thought, were very much what any one would have
experienced in the same case. They were very comparable to the
panic which accidental nudity causes a person among races whose
custom it is to conceal the figure with drapery.
I wanted to run away and hide. If I analyzed my feeling, it did
not seem to arise so much from the consciousness of any
particularly heinous secrets, as from the knowledge of a swarm of
fatuous, ill-natured, and unseemly thoughts and half-thoughts
concerning those around me and concerning myself, which it was
insufferable that any person should peruse in however benevolent
While my chagrin and distress on this account were at first
intense, they were also very short-lived. Almost immediately, I
discovered that the very knowledge that my mind was overlooked by
others operated to check thoughts that might be painful to them
without more effort than a kindly person might exert to check the
utterance of disagreeable remarks. As a few lessons in the
elements of courtesy cures a decent person of inconsiderate
speaking, so a brief experience among the mind readers went far
in my case to check inconsiderate thinking.
It must not be supposed, however, that courtesy among the mind
readers prevents them from thinking pointedly and freely
concerning one another upon serious occasions, any more than the
finest courtesy among the talking races restrains them from
speaking to one another with entire plainness when it is
desirable to do so. Indeed, among the mind readers, politeness
never can extend to the point of insincerity, as among talking
nations, seeing that it is always one another's real and inmost
thought that they read.
I may fitly mention here, though it was not until later that I
fully understood why it must necessarily be so, that one need
feel far less chagrin at the complete revelation of his
weaknesses to a mind reader than at the slightest betrayal of
them to one of another race. For the very reason that the mind
reader reads all your thoughts, particular thoughts are judged
with reference to the general tenor of thought. Your
characteristic and habitual frame of mind is that of which he
takes account. No one need fear being misjudged by a mind reader
because of the sentiments or emotions that are not representative
of the real character or general attitude. Justice may indeed be
said to be a necessary consequence of mind reading.
As regards the interpreter himself, the instinct of courtesy was
not long needed to check wanton or offensive thoughts. In all my
life before I had been very slow to form friendships, but before
I had been three days in the company of this stranger of a
strange race, I had become enthusiastically devoted to him. It
was impossible not to be. The peculiar joy of friendship is the
sense of being understood by our friend as we are not by others,
and yet of being loved in spite of the understanding. Now here
was one whose every word testified to a knowledge of my secret
thoughts and motives which the oldest and nearest of my former
friends had never, and could never, have approximated. Had such
knowledge bred in him contempt of me, I should neither have
blamed him nor been at all surprised. Judge, then, whether the
cordial friendliness that he showed was likely to leave me
Imagine my incredulity when he informed me that our friendship
was not based upon more than ordinary mutual suitability of
temperaments. The faculty of mind reading, he explained, brought
minds close together and so heightened sympathy that the lowest
order of friendships between mind readers implied a mutual
delight such as only rare friends enjoyed among other races. He
assured me that later on when I came to know others of his race
that I should find how true this saying was by the far greater
intensity of sympathy and affection I should conceive for some of
It may be inquired how, on beginning to mingle with the mind
readers in general, I managed to communicate with them, seeing
that they were like the interpreter. They could read my thoughts
but could not respond to them by speech. I must here explain
that while these people have no use for a spoken language, a
written language is needful for purposes of record. They
consequently all know how to write. Do they, then, write
Persian? Luckily for me, the answer was no.
For a long period after mind reading was fully developed, not
only was spoken language disused but also the written, so that no
records whatever were kept during this period. The delight of
the people in the newly found power of direct mind-to-mind
vision, whereby pictures of the total mental state were
communicated, instead of the imperfect descriptions of single
thoughts that words at best could give, induced an invincible
distaste for the laborious impotence of language.
When after several generations the first intellectual
intoxication had somewhat sobered down, it was recognized that
records of the past were desirable and that the despised medium
of words was needful to preserve it. Persian had meantime been
wholly forgotten. In order to avoid the prodigious task of
inventing a complete new language, the institution of the
interpreters was set up with the idea of acquiring through them
knowledge of some languages of the outside world from mariners
wrecked on the islands.
Owing to the fact that most of the castaway ships were English, a
better knowledge of that tongue was acquired than of any other.
It was adopted as the written language of the people. As a rule,
my acquaintances wrote slowly and laboriously and yet the fact
that they knew exactly what was in my mind rendered their
responses so apt that, in my conversations with the slowest
speller of them all, the interchange of thought was as rapid and
incomparably more accurate and satisfactory than that to which
the fastest of talkers attain.
Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy and its Practical Application